BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - Officials are investigating the cause of a massive fire that destroyed the new Black Chamber of Commerce building in Beaufort, early Saturday.
Firefighters from the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department responded to the scene around 1:30 a.m. The fire burned for more than four hours.
The multi-million dollar building on Bladen Street was scheduled to be completed in mid-December.
One Board member tells us they were just planning their January grand opening event the day prior to the tragic event.
"It is a great loss to the community. We still exist across the street in our small building, but this would have been a beacon to show how we could bring the community together and meet the needs of all of the people that live here," said Marie Lewis, Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce.
"I mean, they have worked so hard on this building and it's just...it kind of chokes you up. All the people who have worked so hard on it and what it means to the general community. It's a pretty scary event," said Margy Oehlert, neighbor.
The building had been the target of vandals in the past; The word "racist" was spray-painted in red letters across the sign last July before the building broke ground.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials are working with Beaufort County investigators in the ongoing investigation.